In you want a fourth generation Range Rover - and if you're in the market for a top luxury SUV, then you probably will - then the potent diesel SDV8 is the one you'll have your eye on. Jonathan Crouch tries it.
Ten Second Review
Defining the 4x4 Range Rover's global appeal in words like unique, icon and majestic remains almost as futile as rivals have found it to deliver credible opposition. Some are faster roadrunners, many are cheaper, but none match Range Rover's relaxed repertoire of relentless progress in outstanding comfort, regardless of terrain. You could pay over £200,000 for a Rolls Royce and still hanker after this alternative Range Rover's astonishing abilities. Especially in potent 339PS SDV8 diesel form.
The big news with this car centres on a strengthened right to a priority place on worldwide luxury car shopping lists. For this is so much more than an extraordinarily capable 4x4. No, the Range Rover also deserves consideration from customers looking at conventional super luxury models in the £100,000 classes, such as the Mercedes S class and the like. Yet this is not the fattest of fat cats. A gigantic diet focussed on an innovative aluminium chassis slashes weight, boosting efficiency and driving dynamics. To the point where this generation model has been able to adopt a more economical entry-level 258PS V6 diesel that offers much the same performance as the previous generation's TDV8. Why then, with this MK4 Range Rover, would you want to opt for 339PS SDV8 power? That's what I wanted to find out at the wheel.
You really get two cars in one package with Range Rover. The first a truly luxurious saloon and the second a proven offroader that retains its composure through extreme rough road duress. The SDV8 we tried is certainly fast enough, making 62mph from rest in around 6.5s, a second quicker than the TDV6 version, on the way to a top speed of 135mph. With 740Nm of torque, this 4.4 litre diesel has the most pulling power in the range. Just what you need for a substantial vehicle, especially if it has a full complement of occupants, luggage and is hitched up to an appropriate Range Rover boat or horsebox load. Off road prowess has been further improved thanks to a revised version of the already impressive all-terrain drive select system. Terrain Response2 now has an extra 'Auto' mode, which means you can concentrate on driving over any surface from snow, via rugged rocks, to sodden grass, without pausing to select a suitable setting. This is a machine for many moods, all seasons and so many reasons. From lazy amble through 8-obedient automatic gear ratios, to paddle-shifting pace that becomes more impressive as the weather or terrain worsens, this versatile vehicle does not just comply promptly with your wishes, it positively pampers you as your commands are pleasurably executed.
Design and Build
The fourth generation of Range Rover sees fundamentally radical changes, yet the external styling and accommodating interior retain reassuringly familiar touches, although they too have been thoroughly updated by a design team under the leadership of innovative Gerry McGovern. Look a second time and you realise that it has become a sleeker, more cohesive design. One that pays tribute to its pedigree and occupies a similar 5-metre length, but delivers slippery aerodynamics that were unreachable in previous models. It's the same when it comes to weight-saving. The fresh aluminium underpinnings mean that this SDV8 is 350kgs lighter than its direct predecessor. Elevated views are inherent in Range Rover design, a splendid reminder of a bygone era when seats sat high and proud, so you could look down on most of the populace. In fact the rear seats are set equally high to give back seat passengers that feeling of front seat freedom. The fit, finish and high quality trims used throughout the upper model range choices show a dedication to rear seat comforts that matches the front and outshines all but super luxury saloons beyond £100,000. In the working areas aft of the passengers, a boot capacity of 550-litres is available with the electrically motivated folding rear seats upright, or boosted massively to 2030-litres with those back rests down.
Market and Model
Expect to pay from around £80,000 for your range Rover SDV8, once you've allowed for a few well-chosen extras. That's just under £7,000 more than the entry-level TDV6 diesel version. There's the usual single five-door, five-seat bodystyle and Vogue, Vogue SE and Autobiography trim levels. As you'd expect, all Range Rovers share extensive standard equipment levels, from climate control to satellite navigation, leather seating and rear parking sensors. Sophisticated electronic assistants also serve the line-up, many emphasising safety and electric motorised operations from the usual folding mirrors out to the powered top and bottom tailgates. As ever there is an option list to tempt you, including multiple wheel designs of 20 to 22 inches diameter. We were disappointed that a full size spare wheel-which could save you annoying delays-is a £200 extra. Popular options include a full-length panoramic glass roof and the 'Executive Class' two-seater rear cabin layout - which has the disadvantage that it prohibits folding of the rear backrest. Still, this set-up is tempting, the happiest back seat lair we have encountered, with an attractively finished centre console sweeping rearwards to provide controls for your air conditioned environment: worker bees will also appreciate a USB port and power points. Just so very British Airways!
Cost of Ownership
Nobody buys a Range Rover as an economy purchase, but the company know that they have to deliver competitive fuel economy and emissions figures versus their rivals, which is why Jaguar Land Rover made such a massive investment in the reinforced aluminium body that delivered such a rewarding weight loss. Overlooked by many is that depreciation is the biggest financial factor to run a car from the top end of the mark. However, employing so much aluminium content will also fight corrosion more effectively than any rival, bringing longer-term benefits to fight depreciation. Over three years the current forecasts are that the diesel V8 will retain 50% of its value over 3 years and a typical 36,000 mileage. And ongoing costs? Well, taking the 4.4 litre diesel we're looking at here as an example, we statistically find the fourth generation Range Rover improves over its predecessor in important areas. The Co2 emissions are reduced by 10%, Combined fuel consumption raised 8%. Since this motor also develops some 26 horsepower more than the previous diesel V8, we can see a conscientious balance is achieved between performance and greener credentials. Bottom line figures are 32.5mpg on the combined cycle and 229g/km. Insurance charges? Expect groupings to range between 48 and 49. Other routine costs contain few surprises. Service intervals are set on an annual basis or 15,000 miles, whichever occurs first.
So many cars claim to be unique, offering to make mundane motoring a sparkling affair. Few achieve that memorable status, but Range Rover definitely does, then adds an adventurous twist for leisure drives. I admire such extensive, expensive and efficient engineering that serves- rather than frustrates - as you work through an unmatched breadth of ability. Yes, there are plenty of super luxury saloons that pamper their occupants with graciously presented accommodation front and rear, but you wouldn't ask those same motorised palaces to haul 3 1/2 tonnes along a challenging dirt trail in startling comfort. For a serious price, a Range Rover will execute testing such commands, completing them with unmatched style and strong pace. And that stays true, whatever the weather, or the road ahead, likes to throw at you. True, you don't need the SDV8 diesel variant we tried to get that - the entry-level TDV6 diesel remains a very good buy. But if you're looking at the best luxury SUV, then you want the best diesel engine to go with it. And the SDV8 is certainly that. This Range Rover does not claim perfection, but it's the nearest the motor industry has come to delivering an automotive multi-tasking machine. One with resourcefulness and grace.